I recognized her, of course. The Black Widow. I always wondered why they called her that. Until that day. Just like the deadly spider that devours its mate— this girl was just as ruthless. And just as quiet. It’s funny. You see super heroes on the news once in a while— hear them talk while they’re fighting— almost seems like they’re having fun. Not this one. All business. Serious as a heart attack. She was a woman with a goal. Woe to anyone— anything— that got in her way.

From Journey Into Mystery #517 by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Fury: Congrats, kiddo.
Natasha: Yes, congratulate me— for lying, cheating, and stealing in order to succeed.
Fury: I prefer to think of it as “spying”, Natasha. And ya do good work.
Natasha: Don’t I always? Isn’t that why— in one form or another— there will always be a Black Widow?

This final scene points out that Natasha, for all her expertise, has some moral misgivings about the things she does. It’s not something she revels in, not really, not deep down.

Keep in mind the multiple meanings of the word good. I think what Fury means is that she’s very good at her job. That she’s the best there is at lying, cheating, stealing &c. But I don’t think that’s what Natasha’s responding to, here. She does good work. The greater good. And that’s why there will always be a Black Widow.

Fin picspam.

From Journey Into Mystery #519, Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Confused? Let me break it down for you. Up until three days ago, there really was a Lottie Hederman…

I don’t know if I can quote the two pages of pure exposition, so let me sum up.

Lie #7. Lottie Hederman was an ex-Nazi who discovered that the internet was a place for angry racists to congregate.

Lie #8. She invented the persona “Ebon Flame” because on the internet anybody can be a hot chick.

Lie #9. Lottie even created a sockpuppet for her made-up son. Through her skill in sockpuppetry Lottie was able to become internet queen of the Freedomslight hategroup, MsScribe style.

Lie #10. When Freedomslight was about to strike, Natasha was dispatched to stop them. Through superdetective skills, she realized no one had ever seen Ebon Flame, and decided to impersonate her to draw out the real terrorist leader.

Lie #11. Natasha wages her own IRL sockpuppet campaign, alternating between her Black Widow and Ebon Flame identities. Eventually, she stages Ebon Flame’s “defection,” thus deflating a lot of Freedomslight’s ideological oomph. When Lottie, the real Ebon Flame, sees what Natasha has done to undermine her, she dies of shock.

Lie #12 Natasha then poses as Lottie to troll Agent Tenko into doing something stupid and revealing his true nefarious intentions.

Natasha Romanov: 1, Internet: 0.

Journey into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Lie #6: Natasha was the little old lady all along.

Personally I love ridiculous spy disguises, the more totally unfeasible the better. It’s so much more fun than having her unbutton the top of her blouse and thereby get her way. One day, I hope she manages to convincingly disguise herself as a houseplant.

More intelligently speaking, this means that all the commentary on Natasha’s cold-as-ice smile comes courtesy Natasha herself. Which adds a whole other layer to it. Is this the way Natasha sees herself, or is it how she wants to be seen?

From Journey Into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Lie #5: Agent Tenko does work for the FBI, but he’s not trying to stop Freedomslight, he’s trying to take over it!

It’s no coincidence that his plotline here sort of mirrors the flashback downfall of Ebon Flame. Cue that overquoted Nietzsche line, because the abyss is staring back. Natasha doesn’t just dance with death regularly, she dances with damnation. It’s a very real danger, letting the lies get to you. That’s part of why she needs to project that aura of unflappable self-confidence that is dialed up to 11 in these issues. If Natasha weren’t absolutely sure of who she is, really, it would be that much easier for her to lose herself, really.

From Journey Into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Lie #4, there is no freedom in Freedomslight!

You didn’t believe all the “I just want to help people” crap, did you? Because that’s the most obvious plot twist in the book. The one where the bad guy turns out to be bad. Anyway, Natasha destroys the plot device gizmo, flashback over.

To level up the meta just a little bit: Ebon’s trajectory touches on that inevitable danger of deep cover. If you wear a mask too long, it begins to wear you.

From Journey Into Mystery #519, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

Lie #3: the American dream. (Also every government ever.)

Meet Ebon Flame, the leader of Freedomslight, a group of so-called “Urban Terrorists” who plot against the kyriarchy. Their plan is to end tyranny of the elected minority by stealing some SHIELD mind-wiping macguffin. Lottie, bless her sweet lil’ heart, is dragged into Ebon’s web of militant idealism, and begins to see that Natasha just might be more brutal than the people she’s fighting against. Here’s another conversation between Ebon and Natasha.

Ebon: Why do you fight on their side? Them. The American government! You were born in Russia! I would think…
Natasha: No, you don’t think. Or you would know it is not a government I seek to defend. Rather, the people that live here. People who should be free from living in the shadow of so-called revolutionaries such as yourself!
Ebon: Those are the very people we’re trying to help— to liberate!
Natasha: I don’t see it that way.
Ebon: Don’t you understand?! All we’re asking for is the right to be heard! We fight because we have to fight! But believe me when I say— we don’t want to hurt anyone.

You meet the strangest people on internet dating sites, I’ll tell you.

Would I have been smiling? I mean, if I were the one setting off explosions— leaping clear of fireballs— preparing to stand alone against an army of well-prepared soldiers? No. But then, I’m not Natasha Romanoff. I’m not the Black Widow.

I think this brief Journey Into Mystery story was the only time Natasha used this costume. Check out the hourglass symbol on her footpads. Rock.

From Journey Into Mystery #518, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.

I was wrong. Probably like everyone else she’d ever met— I underestimated her. It was a lot like watching a spider weave its web. If you’re not a spider, it just looks like a bunch of stray strands attached from one corner of the room to the next. But to the spider? She sees it from the very beginning. She knows how it’s going to turn out.

This passage shows how useful these third-person perspectives can be, especially with a protagonist like Natasha, who should be one step or several leaps ahead of the game at all times. I mean, I love seeing her pushed to her limit, but stories like this, where she holds all the cards and you don’t even know the game she’s playing, can be a lot of fun, too.

Because Natasha doesn’t have powers. She can’t fly or throw trains. We could theoretically do the stuff she does. Except we really, really couldn’t, and sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of how fundamentally extraordinary she must be.

Journey Into Mystery #517, by Scott Lobdell and Randy Green.